Trending Topics
Sponsored Content

Overcoming addiction: A first responder’s recovery journey

Paramedic Willie Doan Shares an urgent plea for change in a time when employee wellbeing is often sidelined in favor of productivity and profit

Sponsored by

This episode of Inside EMS is brought to you by Lexipol, the experts in policy, training, wellness support and grants assistance for first responders and government leaders. To learn more, visit

Click here to watch a video of this week’s podcast, featuring Paramedic Willie Doan!

Suicide is always preventable. If you are having thoughts of suicide or feeling suicidal, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline immediately at 988. Counselors are also available to chat at Remember: You deserve to be supported, and it is never too late to seek help. Speak with someone today.

In this episode of Inside EMS, our cohosts, Chris Cebollero and Kelly Grayson, are joined by Willie Doan, a paramedic and academy coordinator from Newcastle, Delaware, to discuss the rampant issues of stress, depression, burnout, substance abuse and suicide among first responders.

A recovering alcoholic, Doan shares his story of addiction, beginning with his first drink at 14, acknowledging that he often drank more than his peers, but never recognized it as a problem. As he joined EMS and began witnessing distressing scenes as part of his job, he continued to drink, sometimes using his work as an excuse, whether it was to celebrate a successful resuscitation or to numb the pain of a bad call.

Despite his dedication to his duty, Doan admits that his addiction worsened. He didn’t acknowledge his alcohol problem until he was in rehab and was educated about how substance abuse affects the brain. His turning point came about 604 days ago, when he was arrested on suspicion of DUI, his second in 6 years. Waking up with no recollection of the event, he asked his mother, “What’s wrong with me?” This moment marked the beginning of his journey to recovery.

Throughout the discussion, Willie underscores the importance of recognizing and addressing addiction in high-stress professions like first responders. His story serves as a reminder that recovery is possible, and that seeking help is the first step towards overcoming addiction.

Tune in to the episode

EMS1 is using generative AI to create some content that is edited and fact-checked by our editors.

Additional resources

The Inside EMS podcast is a regular expert discussion of hot topics, clinical issues, operational and leadership lessons for EMTs, paramedics and chiefs